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Beer & Barley Wine in the Alaskan Winter

As the cold winds blow in with the jet stream, the Sleeping Lady lies in wait for her lover Nekatla to return from the North. Susitna had kept vigil, expectant that Nekatla and his entourage would return to “the Inlet” after making peace with the boreal strangers. Hours grew into days and in her exhaustion, Susitna fell into a deep slumber. In the meanwhile, a lone arbitrator returned, visibly shaken, and bearing the news that hostile warriors had spilled the blood of the peacemakers, including the brave Nekatla.

The village women tried to wake Susitna, but her consciousness lingered in limbo. In their tearful anguish, the ladies wove her a blanket of field grasses and wildflowers, and laid it upon her lifeless form. Their tears rose up and formed clouds in the sky, as a cold wind descended from the arctic pole. Trees and flowers froze in icy columns, and the first snowflakes fell like down-feathers on the sleeping Susitna, covering her with layer upon layer of pallid fluff. As the snows continued to fall, the entire village disappeared. In time, new life forms - bears, wolves, caribou and moose - came into the frozen land, along with new waves of people. The Sleeping Lady still lies in wait for her lover’s return.

As you gaze across Cook Inlet, you see the magnificence of Mount Susitna as she touches the sky. Your eye follows her form in a panoramic view of the Chugach Mountain range, distant and snow-covered. As the circle closes, Anchorage, the City of Lights and Flowers, seizes your attention.

Winter bestows a magical dust across this land, interwoven with darkness and short spans of magnificent daylight. The population - 270,951 and increasing - is a bit younger than the average city, with a median age of 32.3 years. Dog mushing, skiing, climbing, hockey, salmon fishing, and snowshoe baseball all take on a double layer of challenge – the competitors versus each other and the elements. As January rolls around, it is time for some indoor winter fun and friskiness.

The 12th annual Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival 2007 kicks off at the William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center, 555 W. 5th Avenue in Anchorage on January 19th and 20th in 2007, lighting up the Pacific Northwest with more than 200 of the region’s most evocative and intoxicating beers. While live music fills the air, the finest Dopplebocks, Pale Ales, Robust Porters, aged Barley Wines, Imperial Stouts, Belgian Dubbels and Tripels, Brown Ales and Pilsners will touch the palates of beer enthusiasts who come seeking the pleasures of Northern beer, folklore and adventure.

This is the supreme celebration of Barley Wine, in all its glory. A sanctioned competition brings out the best of the brews, highly potent, and resplendent with addicting flavors. Some may be aged in bourbon or oak barrels; others may bear an appetizing wood-smokiness mixed with apples and cinnamon, fruited liqueurs, or whiskey and apricots. Layers of toffee maltiness lie beneath and fill the nostrils with soporific delight.

As a soft buzz overtakes your senses from such magnanimous brews, you may wonder if your eyes deceive you. The Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival draws beer aficionados from across the globe – names like Beer Hunter Michael Jackson; Hildegard Van Ostaden, owner/brewer of Urthel in Belgium; Charlie Papazian, founder of the Association of Brewers (1978) and the Great American Beer Festival; Tom Dalldorf, publisher of Celebrator Beer News; Randy Mosher, Radical Brewing author and graphics designer; Dave Buehler of Elysian Brewing; and Adam Avery of Avery Brewing.

Festival attendees exchange $30 at the door for an official program guide, a 6-ounce commemorative souvenir glass and 30 beer-tasting samples. Festival hours: Friday, January 19, 2007 – 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, January 20, 2007 – 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Attendees must be 21 or older – Note: NO exceptions!

Aurora Productions presents the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival to benefit the American Diabetes Association.

One additional note: Many of these beers – the Imperial IPAs, Barley Wines, Imperial Stouts, Tripels and Dubbels – have high alcohol levels and will impair your senses more quickly than you may realize. Don’t take a chance - don’t drink and drive. Check in at one of the fine hotels in the area, use a taxi, or have a designated driver in reserve.

I will be making my own adventurous trek to the 2007 Festival, enticed by the wonders of nature: the Glaciers (Glacier Brewhouse), Moose (Moose's Tooth Brewing), Bears (Great Bear Brewing Company), Sleeping Lady (Sleeping Lady Brewery) and Midnight Sun (Midnight Sun Brewing Company).

Cheers!
 

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